Update on Phil Jones’ injury
After a two-week hiatus in which the thrills and spills of the Premier League were traded for dour, pointless international friendlies and a couple of World Cup play-offs, club football returns this weekend, with Manchester United welcoming Newcastle United to Old Trafford on Saturday evening. One of the problems with these international breaks is that very often, key players return to their clubs injured at the worst possible time as managers plan how best to deal with the workload of the hectic Christmas schedule. Fortunately for Jose Mourinho, at the time of writing, United’s stars have avoided picking up any major injuries whilst representing their country, with centre-back Phil Jones the only minor concern, having withdrawn from the England squad after picking up a thigh strain in Friday’s goalless draw with Germany. However, according to the Guardian, the 25-year-old is confident that he will recover in time to start alongside Eric Bailly at the heart of the United defence against the Magpies on Saturday. Jones, whose future at Old Trafford seemed uncertain back in the summer, following the £31 million arrival of fellow centre-back Victor Lindelof, has been one of the club’s top performers this season, and his return to the fold will come as a boost to Mourinho.
Patience required for Paul Pogba’s return
One man who is unlikely to feature on Saturday, however, is Paul Pogba, with the Telegraph reporting that Mourinho will resist the temptation to throw the France international back into the starting XI, having been out of action with an injured hamstring since September. It is believed that the Portuguese boss is not prepared to risk the 24-year-old against Rafael Benitez’s side and will ease him back into the first-team fold, as they gear up for five matches in the space of 14 days. Pogba made a flying start to the season, scoring twice and racking up a further two assists in the opening weeks, before limping off during United’s 3-0 home win over Basel in the Champions League. The side’s performance levels have dipped dramatically in his absence, and Mourinho’s men now find themselves trailing league leaders and arch-rivals Manchester City by eight points.
United linked with big-money move for Atletico Madrid star man
The dreaded international break tends to leave newspapers scrambling for ways to fill their column inches, which is where today’s transfer rumours come in. According to several reports, United have identified Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez as their major transfer target, next summer, despite the 22-year-old putting pen to paper on a bumper new nine-year deal with the Spanish giants just last July. Under manager Diego Simeone, the attacking midfielder has become one of the most sought-after players in Europe since establishing himself in the fist-team squad, nearly two years ago. Injuries to Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick have left Mourinho short of options in the middle of the park, and the Portuguese reportedly sees Saul as the ideal addition to his talented squad.
Mourinho set to raid La Liga club in January transfer window
Saul, however, is not the only midfielder linked with a big-money move to Old Trafford, as the Independent reports that Mourinho has made Valencia’s Carlos Soler his primary transfer target once the window re-opens at the turn of the year. Despite only making his first-team debut last December, the 20-year-old is believed to be set for a £40 million transfer to Theatre of Dreams. The Spain under-21 international has played a key role in Valencia’s impressive start to the current campaign, making 12 appearances in all competitions, finding the back of the net once, during his side’s 2-2 draw away to reigning La Liga champions Real Madrid.